In its annual “Mobile Future In Focus” report, comScore highlights the mainstreaming of smartphones, the emergence of tablets as a viable fourth screen and the growing integration of mobile into consumer lifestyles. The Web research firm reported that mobile media use -- defined as browsing the mobile Web, accessing applications, or downloading content -- has surpassed the 50% level in many markets.
The growth of app use outpaced mobile browsers last year, but both ended up with the same level of adoption: about 47.5% of mobile owners used both formats. Health ranked as the fastest-growing mobile media category in the U.S., followed by retail and other commerce-related categories, such as electronic payments and auction sites.
The most popular apps for the iPhone included YouTube, Google Maps, Facebook, Yahoo Weather and Pandora. Google apps were featured more heavily among Android users’ favorites, including Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook and Google News and Weather.
When it comes to mobile shopping, comScore found that more than half of U.S. smartphone owners used their phone to research products while inside a store last year. (Mobile retail data released by Nielsen Wednesday estimated that 38% are doing in-store research.) By year’s end, nearly 1 in 5 smartphone users scanned product barcodes and almost 1 in 8 compared prices.
Social networking has also spread to smartphones. More than 64 million smartphone users accessed social networking sites or blogs on their phones at least once in December; more than half are doing so every day. People most often read posts from friends. But comScore said more than half of those who are social networking via mobile are reading posts from brands, organizations and events.
The findings also underscore how quickly tablets are gaining traction. In less than two years, mobile users have snapped up 40 million tablets -- a threshold that it took smartphones seven years to reach. That translates to almost 15% of U.S. mobile users owning a tablet at the end of 2011.
A Pew survey released last month had a somewhat higher estimate, finding that tablet ownership among U.S. adults nearly doubled to 19% over the holidays.